Tap to Read ➤

Biodiesel vs Diesel

Rajib Singha Feb 24, 2020
The data in this story presents to you a comparative analysis on biodiesel vs diesel by highlighting some basic aspects which would help you point out the difference between the two types of fuel sources.
As the population increases, lifestyle requirements increase and so does the use of various energy sources. The main concern is with those sources which are nonrenewable such as fossil fuels like coal, wood, oil, gas, and minerals like copper.
As the name suggests, these sources of energy cannot be renewed or reused, and needless to say, the Earth may not have a lifetime supply of the same. So to keep the energy store from running out, scientists came up with the advent of natural and renewable sources of energy.
These can not only be reused, but they pose less or no threat to the environment and, are biodegradable.

Difference Between Biodiesel and Diesel

The main factor that separates biodiesel from petroleum diesel is in the source from which these products are derived, and the manufacturing process behind their production. So keeping this in mind, here is a brief on how each of these fuels is produced.

Biodiesel - Its Making

Stuffs such as vegetable oils, recycled cooking oil and animal fats are the ones which are used in the manufacture of biodiesel - known as a pollutant-free, clean-burning alternative to petroleum diesel.
The procedure of making biodiesel is a chemical process which separates glycerin from animal fats or vegetable oil (mostly, oils derived from soy and corn). For this, the process requires the use of methanol or ethanol, and a catalyst such as sodium hydroxide.
So once the glycerin gets separated, it leaves behind what is known as methyl ester (chemical name for biodiesel). Now, the byproduct, that is glycerin is used in manufacture of soap, and other products. And in addition, the chemicals and catalyst that were used in the chemical process, can also be recovered and reused. So you see, the whole concept of biodiesel is about reusing, and recycling resources.

Petroleum Diesel - Its Making

Diesel, needless to say, is a nonrenewable source of energy, and the most common source of fuel for almost all types of diesel operated vehicles and other machinery. Also known as petroleum diesel, it is obtained by treating crude oil through the process of separation, conversion and purification. This whole process is carried out at a refinery.
Under the separation procedure, the crude oil is put through a process known as fractional distillation. This is carried out in a fractional distillation column, which is exposed to a specific temperature.
Now, the different compounds in the crude oil get separated from each other depending upon their respective boiling points. Those having a high boiling point get settled below the column, while those with low boiling point, remain at the top. In this way, the crude oil is distilled into propane gas, gasoline, diesel fuel and lubricating oil.
Since the distillation procedure does not produce enough diesel fuel, the conversion process is required for breaking heavier fractions of the crude oil thus, producing more of this fuel.
And the last step involves purification of the product obtained. Here, excess sulfur is gotten rid of reacting the diesel with catalyst and exposing it to hydrogen under controlled conditions.

Comparison Between Diesel and Biodiesel

Having discussed the most important aspect on biodiesel vs diesel, here are a few more points of differences between.
  • Biodiesel  - The combustion of this fuel is 75% cleaner than petroleum diesel.

  • Petroleum Diesel - This fuel is one of the major air pollutants in the world, thus, is associated with medical ailments of the heart and lungs.
  • Biodiesel - Carbon dioxide emission is appreciably lower (about 78% less) thus, is a major contributing factor in the management of global warming. And whatever amount of this gas gets released does not add to the level of the same in the atmosphere.

  • Petroleum Diesel - Needless to say, petroleum diesel is a fossil fuel thus, burning it release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere thus, contributing to the increase in global warming.
  • Biodiesel - This fuel has a certain solvent that helps in cleaning off deposits of petroleum diesel from the tank walls and pipes thus, serving as a super-lubrication agent. Also, its combustion leaves fewer particulate deposits behind. This may extend the lifetime of engines.

  • Petroleum Diesel - Petro-diesel does not possess such properties
  • Biodiesel - Engines that run on this fuel not only start easily, but run better with cleaner emissions. This is because of the fuel's higher cetane number, which means more oxygen.

  • Petroleum Diesel - This one has a lower cetane number thus is less efficient.
  • Biodiesel - It produces lesser soot (particulate matter), carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide.

  • Petroleum Diesel - Diesel is known for its high-sulfur emissions, which are extremely harmful for the environment.

  • Biodiesel - The Environmental Protection Agency regards this fuel as non-toxic, and biodegradable.

  • Petroleum Diesel - This fossil fuel is not. So when it mixes with water or soil, it causes pollution.
  • Biodiesel - This less polluting-fuel is also helpful in removing crude oil from water, such as in the case of shorelines that get soiled with crude oil.

  • Petroleum Diesel - With petro-diesel, there is no such scope.
  • Biodiesel - Older diesel vehicles, especially those made before 1992, may encounter some problems with higher concentrations of biodiesel. The fuel can jam the fuel filter, and damage rubber components.

  • Petroleum Diesel - It does not give rise to any such problems

  • Biodiesel - Biodiesel is not only environment friendly, but is highly economical as well. This is because, it does not incur any import costs.

  • Petroleum Diesel - Diesel is an imported product thus, is one of the major reasons of inflation in the country.

  • Biodiesel - The distribution of this fuel is not widespread. If we speak of the United States, then there are 19 National Biodiesel Board, which supply this fuel.

  • Petroleum Diesel - Diesel is available in all fuel stations.
Biodiesel is more expensive than diesel. One of the reasons behind this is soybean, which is the most common source of biodiesel. Soybean is only 20% oil and this makes the production of biodiesel costlier.
However, if we leave out the cost part, then petroleum diesel does not provide the same level of energy conservation, environmental benefits, economic benefits, and energy security that biodiesel does.